UPDATE: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL IS BEING RE-WORKED AND THEREFORE SET TO “PRIVATE” WITH RESTRICTED ACCESS
My work is based on extensive research, interviews and published accounts. I use mainly primary and secondary sources in order to build the story. I have attempted to stick to the facts in the text and avoid assumptions, yet draw conclusions from the circumstantial evidence. Visual scenes have been created for the purposes of dramatization. This is a work of creative non-fiction inspired by true facts, physical evidence and historical research. In the end, this is my artistic interpretation and nothing more than that.
Regarding my passion project Molly- a true crime analysis: 2003-2016 was all about researching, drawing, accumulating, writing, collecting. 2017 was all about creating an online weekly draft, telling the story with images, words and music in whatever way it unfolded, sharing it openly, publicly. 2018 has been all about allowing others in, and letting go of control, and hiding the project and process away so that those others could take a run at it. The outcome of all this is still unknown. I admit it feels odd and strange.
But what has been brewing inside me is another version of the story– one that only I know how to tell. And I keep pacing about it. It’s not that I don’t know what to do. It’s that I KNOW what I am supposed to do and it somehow scares the shit out of me.
2019– I am ready.
Keeping a “don’t know mind” is important during this time as you may be somewhat confused and in a state of not knowing. Let spirit and your inner truth, wisdom and intuition sort it for you. Let go of any attachment to how it is supposed to look, who should be in the picture and how it needs to unfold.
There is freedom in trusting that everything will land where it should so take some time and enjoy your life, enjoy your community, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy your unique talents and creativity. Worry and obsession about whether or not you are “doing it right” will only rob you of your sleep. Let the energy of TRUTH assimilate into your being without any effort or hyper-vigilance. The word of the week is TRUST.
Imagination, of course, can open any door– turn the key and let the terror walk right in.
– Truman Capote
No. 1 Richard Hickock: “It was early, not yet nine…”
No. 2: “Nancy Clutter is always in a hurry, but she always has time.”
No. 3 Truman Capote: “In Cold Blood- a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences.”
No. 4 Kenyon Clutter: “… so I took him down and to the playroom where there was a comfortable looking couch.”
No. 5 Herbert Clutter: “The master of River Valley Farm, Herbert William Clutter, was forty-eight years old…”
No. 6: “… 7 miles west of Garden City.”
No. 7 Bonnie Clutter: “… poor Bonnie’s affliction was in the least a secret.”
No. 8 Bonnie Clutter: “… had resurrected her ‘old self’; as if serving up a preview of the normality…”
No. 9 Floyd Wells: “His drowsiness instantly vanished when he heard, officers investigating tragic slaying of four members of the Herbert W. Clutter family…”
No. 10A: “Truman sits with his coffee, reading the New York Times. He sits up straight, folds the paper over, reads it. C/U of article being snipped out of PAGE 39 of the Times.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]
No. 10B: “I think this is what I want to write about.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]
No. 11 Perry Smith: “Were any representatives of the cinema there?” [Life Magazine, May 12, 1967]
No. 12 Nancy Clutter: “The snake swallows you? Or what?”
No. 13 Richard Hickock: “Well, hell, give it all to us then.”
No. 14 Harper Lee: “You’re the only one I know with the qualifications to be both research assistant and personal bodyguard.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]
No. 15: Forty seven dollars.
No. 16: EXT KANSAS STATE PENITENTIARY (KSP) LANSING-DAY. [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]
No. 17 Walter Hickock Sr.: “The judge up there! I have never seen a man so prejudiced… No sense. Just no sense having a trial.”
No. 18 Susan Kidwell: “Susan Kidwell, her confidante…”
No. 19 Richard Avedon: “Perry, honey. You look terrific.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]
No. 20: “My cup runneth over…”
No. 21 Alvin Dewey’s cat: “Courthouse Pete, the family watchcat. Pete weighs 13 pounds.” – from Harper Lee’s article in the Grapevine, March 2960
No. 22 Truman Capote: “Imagination, of course, can open any door– turn the key and let the terror walk right in.”
No. 23 The Big Yellow Bird: “… the yellow bird, huge and parrot-faced, board in Perry’s dream, an avenging angel who savaged his enemies or, as now, rescued him in moments of mortal danger.””
No. 24 Truman Capote: “It scraped me right to the marrow of my bones. It nearly killed me. I think, in a way, it did kill me.”
No. 25 Perry and Dick: “A week in Mexico City…”
No. 26: Plot Analysis
No. 27: In the District Court of Finney County Kansas. The State of Kansas (Plaintiff) vs. Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith (Defendants), No. 2322
No. 28: “Autumn rewards western Kansas for the evils that the remaining seasons impose.”
No. 29: “Or the moon. Oh, he can fool you.”
No. 30: “Using their paws as though they are surgical instruments, the cats extract from the grilles every feathery particle.”
No. 31: “He looked at his fingers, which were stained with ink and paint, for he’d spent his final three years on Death Row painting self-portraits and pictures of children, usually the children of inmates who supplied him with photographs of their seldom-seen progeny.”
On January 15, 2017, I launched the first chapter of the third draft of my experimental graphic novel: Molly- a true crime analysis.
Birds have been a recurring theme throughout the work. It is difficult to explain their symbolism fully, but to me they carry messages across space and time.
I spent Dec 31, 2017-Jan 1, 2018 drawing birds for a particular image I wanted for Part 22 and in order to end and start the new year working on the book. The drawing process was a joy but I was surprised at how loud my inner critic was, how sad I became, how I questioned the validity of the book, the point.
I danced with the critic though, didn’t fight the darkness that welled up, and continued to put china marker to paper and wheatpaste to canvas until I felt done.
MOLLY- A TRUE CRIME ANALYSIS
This true crime/cold case/murder mystery art project has been part of my life since 2003, though I know I was born to write and illustrate it.
“The image of a dead bird in the snow is similar to the popular “Babe in the Woods” motif of children who are in their mortal sleep in the forest, and may have likewise been a call to empathy for the less fortunate.”
I am workshopping my graphic novel through a weekly online serial.
we have been witnessed a crime:
Looked at the original headlines:
I’ve introduced my involvement (more to come):
And travelled to Ireland to get our first glimpse at the main character:
Molly’s and The Babes in the Wood timeline are now starting to twist around each other.
So I need to celebrate
I am 95 pages in— 95 pages in 4 weeks! Or looking at it another way, 95 pages in 13.5 years. Yes, I must celebrate this. But instead, I am struck with creative insomnia! A buzzing, busy brain. Is it excitement to keep going? Is it fear? Is it a
Of course it is. Holy shit. I am putting it out there, doing it for me, for Molly, for my supporters, for storytelling. Holy shit. I am doing it. And accurate to the way the creative process works and the inner critic whispers, I am struck with nervousness. I have been struggling so long after so much life change to just live a day a time. And now here I am, planning 46 weeks of instalments. Planning my life. Professionally, creatively. Thinking ahead… thinking past tomorrow…
I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately Smashin’ every expectation Every action’s an act of creation! I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow
– Lin Manuel Miranda
After years of 5 minute living, a way to get through the rollercoaster of life-
I am sitting here with a full calendar and giant lovely to-do’s and I admit, I am a little bit scared. But loving it. Deep into it. Experimenting. And trusting Molly.
Sitting here, surrounded by drawings and notes and cold coffee in multiple cups… butterflies in the stomach…
I want to honor Molly, who reached out through space and time and chose me to tell her story and my muse, Jocelyn Louise, who has so generously lent herself to represent my vision of Molly—
and to celebrate my decision to share the creative process of the new draft as a 23 part (2 sections per part) weekly serial online for FREE (Part 1 launches January 15, 2017 at 6:30 AM PT), I give you:
The work is presented in an experimental form. I will simply allow the creative process to unfold. THIS WEEKLY SERIAL FORMAT serves as a means to workshop* the graphic novel.
… a form of theatrical performance, in which a play or musical is staged in a modest form which does not include some aspects of a full production. For example, costumes, sets and musical accompaniment may be excluded, or may be included in a simpler form.One common purpose of a workshop production is to provide a preview staging of a new work in order to gauge audience and critical reaction. Following which, some parts of the work may be adjusted or rewritten before the work’s official premiere. – wikipedia
… to dissolve the very boundaries between fact and fiction, life and art, memory and imagining. The result would be a five-act narrative tragedy comprised of materials gathered from everything from journal, diary, memoir, novel, poem, play, to mission order, policy document, news report, popular song, G.I. anecdote, advertising slogan, and latrine graffito.
– Philip D. Beidler on John Clark Pratt’s Vietnam Voices
Circumstantial, physical and genealogical evidence converge in multiple timelines.
How do you escape from a convincing story? After enough repetitions, the facts come to serve the story and not the other way around. – Errol Morris
I began working on this PASSION PROJECT in 2003 when I was a volunteer criminal profiler on the Babes in the Wood task force in Vancouver, Canada. And I have been working on it ever since.
But I have come to a crossroads.
That tap on the shoulder was a message. I knew I needed to pay attention. And I have been.
Feeling lost— thinking hoping the message was:
“Await the magic moment when a publisher responds, or that phone call comes from that lead down south…”
Sitting on the dock with lines in the water…
But no- I knew in my heart that my HOPE was actually blocking my ability to truly listen.
So I sat down with my main character the other day.
I asked Molly- what do you want from me?
I raged at myself- walked the lagoon, again and again-
… sitting with the questions, still awaiting news from publishers, producers.
Awaiting the signal to restart the manuscript- its parts all laid out and ready. Yet- feeling a nagging churning in my heart and gut that this is not how I naturally work.
Then- AH HA!
Molly pushed me off the dock into the water.
I AWOKE from my stupor!
Molly- who was an ACTUAL LIVING BREATHING HUMAN between 1924-1947, who reached out across time and space and grabbed my heart, asking me to tell her story, whose life I have pieced together from research, who seems to guide the show if I am willing to let go of what I thought it should look like- has made it so clear to me that—
I need to start telling the story in my way.
It wasn’t the right time before. I have uncovered new things.
But it is also no longer OK to wait.
Narratives are ubiquitous. They are part of the way people see the world, part of the way people think. All of us. Myself included. Without them we would be overwhelmed, with undigested, raw facts. But that doesn’t mean that all narratives are created equal. There is fiction, and there is nonfiction. And one of the differences between fiction and fact is that a fictional character is controlled by its creator. It has no reality off the page… It is easy to confuse a search for revealing plot details with a search for evidence. But there is a difference. In one case, we are wandering through a landscape of words. In the other, we are in the physical world. – Errol Morris
And so, me, the creator am controlled by the non-fiction character, Molly.
Molly- a true crime analysisvisual weekly serial
goes online January 15, 2017!
23 sections (two parts per section) released over 45 weeks.
January 15-November 5, 2017
The work is presented in an experimental graphic novel form.
… a crime analysis to determine the general characteristics of the most likely suspect for the crime. – Henry Lee, Crime Scene Investigation (1994)
Katarina Thorsen’s work Molly weaves empirical discovery and her own imagination. While many people know of the tragic deaths of the two children from the Babes in the Wood case, Thorsen introduces another tragic death in Vancouver history near the same time, that of a young woman named Molly, whose demise was a brief and lurid headline back in the day. It is a story about history and mystery, and how these two tragic stories intersect- or don’t- as the case may be.
– Pamela Post, journalist, 2015
THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AND I WILL INCLUDE YOU IN MY JOURNEY.
AS MY MANUSCRIPT UNFOLDS, I WILL SHARE THE PROCESS WEEK TO WEEK STARTING WITH WEBSITE LAUNCH JANUARY 15, 2017
THE 5-ACT SERIAL WILL INCLUDE TEXT, PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES, ILLUSTRATIONS, PHOTOGRAPHS, VIDEO AND AUDIO. (AND MAGIC)
I write, silly because, unlike the dream, I usually get to the airport three hours ahead of time for a domestic flight. I am already fretting about the upcoming 6:30 AM flight on June 19 when I head back to Toronto for more creative community engagement projects.
In the dream, I arrive at the gate (the plane is boarding in 45 minutes) to get on a British Airways flight with son and his girlfriend. I look down and I have NO luggage, no ticket, no passport, no boarding pass, no wallet, nothing. I left them all at home. I panic knowing there is not enough time- I will miss the plane. I hitchhike back “home” with an elderly couple who drive me to some kind of cabin retreat place in the woods and are slowing me down by stopping at places I am not connected to, writing down names I don’t recognize into hotel ledgers and putting the notes into the car glove compartment. I feel a bit helpless and frantic as I sit in the back seat, in the middle, leaning forward.
Having had a few hours to digest it… I wonder if the dream isn’t related to my research on my passion project, Molly- a true crime analysis. I don’t have enough clout, ID, info, documents quite yet to get through that gate! No boarding pass yet!
I feel closer than ever this week though. There have been some exciting developments regarding DNA. And though I won’t share details here, let’s just say, the case I write about all comes down to identity and the answers will only be proven through DNA analysis. Stay tuned!!!
“DNA is God’s signature… never a forgery, and his checks don’t bounce.” Eddy Joe Lloyd, exonoree, After Innocence (2005)
I do love DNA! The very STUFF of LIFE! Some of my fondest memories at UBC in Biological Sciences was mapping a fruit fly’s genome. I recall the beautiful starfish like chromosome.
The cold case I am researching centres around the unidentified children found in Stanley Park in 1953. Their DNA profiles were completed in 1998 by Dr. David Sweet, forensic odontologist. The goal is to identify their mother through DNA comparisons.
And through some wonderful unfoldings this week, I am a few steps closer, but no boarding pass yet!
A DNA molecule consists of two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder. Ah, the DOUBLE HELIX!
The term double helixrefers to the structure formed by double-stranded molecules of nucleic acids such as DNA. The double helical structure of a nucleic acid complex arises as a consequence of its secondary structure, and is a fundamental component in determining its tertiary structure. [source]
No discussion about DNA is complete without the mention of one of my heroes, Rosalind Franklin:
“Her soul shall be bound in the bundle of life.” – Inscription on Rosalind Franklin’s tombstone
My imagery of late- embroidered drawings- tries to recreate that binding, that layering, the bundling, the need to look closer and closer, to pry away and lift and investigate to get closer to the answer. Closer to the boarding pass.
My passion project, Molly- a true crime analysis, centres around a 63 year old Vancouver cold case.
On January 15, 1953, the skeletal remains of two children were found in the forest of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The victims became known as the Babes in the Wood. The physical evidence indicated that the children were killed using a hatchet and confidently pointed to the involvement of a woman, likely the children’s mother. Unsolved for over 63 years, the double homicide still haunts the city and fuels the imaginations of Vancouverites. Several theories have been explored and many leads and tips have been followed; yet the identities of the two victims remain unknown.
Molly- a true crime analysisillustrates my research into this heartbreaking mystery.
My involvement initially began as a volunteer researcher on the Babes in the Wood task force from 2003 to 2004.
This passion project- an illustrated book- is as much about the PROCESS and my deep involvement as it is about the cold case and the ultimate “end” product. And yes- that process. The creative process is incredibly magical and rewarding. The project is directing itself in a sense, and I am following and trusting.
The book will include text (facts and interpretation), illustrations (including magic realism), photographs, primary sources, physical evidence, circumstantial evidence and artifacts.
I am currently reworking the text and illustrating. I am experimenting with embroidered drawings.
Why embroidered drawings?
Certain drawings (in particular chapter headings) are embroidered as a means to reflect the act of connecting the dots and weaving together timelines, evidence and research. The stitches are footsteps on a map. It reflects deep thought and the passage of time. It is historical. Traditional. Sacred. It is about strengthening the fragile. It fascinates me that a medium so cheap and easily torn such as newsprint becomes strong and hardy when layered and sewn together. It can be manipulated and folded, handled, and only gains a lovelier patina. There is something magical in that.
The skeletal remains were found covered in layers of fallen leaves and forest growth and decay. I am currently experimenting with layering of embroidery and incorporating text continues to simulate forensic taphonomy and the layering of forest vegetation over time.
Forensic taphonomy is concerned with the study of the decomposition of human remains, particularly in the context of burial sites.
… And when they were dead
The robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
The green branches among,
They’d prettily whistle
And this was their song-
‘Poor babes in the wood!
Sweet babes in the wood!
Oh the sad fate of
The babes in the wood!’
“The Babes in the Wood,” Anonymous (ca 1595). Public domain.
On January 15, 1953, the skeletal remains of two children were found in the forest of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The victims became known as the Babes in the Wood. The physical evidence indicated that the children were killed using a hatchet and confidently pointed to the involvement of a woman, likely the children’s mother. Unsolved for over 63 years, the double homicide still haunts the city as the identities of the two victims remain unknown.
My involvement began when I was a volunteer researcher on the Babes in the Wood task force from 2003 to 2004. My work interpreted the cold case within the historical context of a Post War city, folding in theory as to the psychological behavior of the offender or offenders.
To enrich the profile of the unknown woman involved, I searched for comparison cases regarding troubled women in post war Vancouver and came across a story about the suicide of Molly O’Dwyer, a young immigrant woman who had relocated to the city from Alberta in July 1947. I printed out the article for my files.
In one glorious 3 AM AHA! moment, I recalled an obscure lead regarding a woman named Molly from Alberta who headed west in 1947 with her two children and was never heard from again.
13 years later, I have taken that initial headline about a suicide and, through extensive research, mapped out Molly’s entire life and the incredible parallels to the Babes in the Wood.
My thesis dares to ask, “What if?” – Katarina Thorsen
I have been on a bit of blog-haitus of late. Just experienced an amazing pull back into the past as a dear friend spent 9 days here visiting from Sweden. We dove deep. Real deep. Drenched in Swedish. Endless necessary exhilarating conversation.
Fully open and torn open- finding old wounds long hidden- releasing them.
Reflecting on all the milestones achieved. All the losses experienced.
Understanding that I had to lose SO MUCH and grow through the loss in order to be fully my obligation-free artist self and to be present for what lies ahead.
Everything has fallen away and I am left standing, realizing I can take any direction now. Any direction.
Holy shit- I could panic. I could freak out. But really- what this nakedness is… is FREEDOM.
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. – Henry Miller
Sure, I have been doing some outreach. I have been weighing the options. I send out my CV and build arts-based programming opportunities in the community, yet all the while I maintain focus on my key passion-project: Molly.
Daring to step into my successful self/ my future me/ my abundant me, I created a mock cover to maintain the momentum.
Start at the end.
Act as if. IT IS TIME
My friend, writer Matthew Roy, put it best (regarding the core emotion of the book):
There is so much desperation in the story. Molly’s. Yours. Clocks literally ticking as time runs out for the truth.
The following autopsy illustration, in progress [for Section 5 Part 3 of the book], reflects the somewhat autobiographical parallels of the work:
I’m just trusting what’s ahead.
Sometimes a song expresses our states of being the best.
At present, Fiona Apple’s Container does it for me:
I was screaming into the canyon At the moment of my death The echo I created Outlasted my last breath
My voice it made an avalanche And buried a man I never knew And when he died his widowed bride Met your daddy and they made you
I have only one thing to do and that’s To be the wave that I am and then Sink back into the ocean